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Assembling the Best Sidewalk Crew Possible?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by JohnRoscoe, Feb 23, 2015.

  1. JohnRoscoe

    JohnRoscoe Senior Member
    Messages: 209

    We do multifamily, and sidewalks are our weak point. If someone gave me a new front end loader and box, it wouldn't help my productivity a bit, but when our sidewalk crew works well, everything else works well.

    We struggled last weekend and I'm looking for tips to motivate, attract, and maintain a top notch crew.

    Things we already do include: run Toro two-stage blowers and a JD 1025R with blower to handle as much as possible without a shovel, use a variety of shovels including 30" scrapers, 18" metal blades, and scoop shovels, buy hot meals and pop in our heated shop, provide water on-site.

    What else have you done to make the work desirable for your guys? I grew up with a snow shovel in my hand and know that it's not fun, but I never had the choice to beg off. We run try to run a first class operation in every way, and I'd be seriously interested in having a best in the industry snow crew if I could figure out how. Any tips are much appreciated. Thank you!
  2. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,257

  3. beanz27

    beanz27 Senior Member
    Messages: 984

    Only thing I've ever seen work is good pay, cash, buy a meal etc. cash is legal to $600
  4. JohnRoscoe

    JohnRoscoe Senior Member
    Messages: 209

    We're doing great on meals, cash not likely to happen, we're simply too large for the risk.
  5. snowman55

    snowman55 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,071

    As has been talked about a lot. Cash is not ok even for $10. Really sucks cause I know if I paid cash I would have a lot more guys show up.

    Likely get away with it but 1 whistle blower or 1 guy claim he hurt his back and you will be visited by: unemployment office, workers comp, state and federal revenue, department of labor, and a big guy with a jug of vasoline.
  6. John_DeereGreen

    John_DeereGreen 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,920

    That's a majority of what we do as well...walks are a nightmare no matter what.

    I highly doubt they'd remember to bring the vaseline if you're involved in tax evasion.
  7. xtreem3d

    xtreem3d PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,548

    This year I supplied pretty good coats or coveralls, whichever they wanted. I am not giving them away , just using for winter then return so if things change next year I still have them. I also supplied hand warmers ( those small packaged kind you shake and use). I may buy a blade for our Dingo to help on the long walks but haven't yet. I buy good snow shovels and I pay fast. Not sure what else I can do.
  8. beanz27

    beanz27 Senior Member
    Messages: 984

    Cash is legal until you pay over $600 in a year, I believe my cpa said its "misc. labor"
  9. classiclawncare

    classiclawncare Senior Member
    Messages: 282

    I have 2 of my best guys run my sidewalk crew. I have 6 total guys in my F-550 dump truck with a dump body. They have a pallet of sidewalk salt, snow shovels and 3 snow blowers. There only job is to go to every jobsite large or small and clear sidewalks. I pay my 2 crew leaders as much as my snow plow truck drivers and pay the regular workers about 2/3 that of the crew leader. I supply food, water, gatoraid and gloves. They can take as many breaks as needed. This past storm, which was our first this Winter I brought in 4 extra guys to help out which seemed to make things go quicker. I also am going to take them all out to dinner once we get caught up on our work.

    I also let my 2 crew leaders pick the extra workers as they know who is a good worker or not better than me out of guys they know.

    My guys also know that once they get done their list they are done and can go home so it helps to keep them motivated.

    This setup has worked for me now for 3 seasons.
  10. snowman55

    snowman55 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,071

    Your cpa is wrong, sorry. $600 a year and no 1099, yes. However you can not claim a shoveler as a subcontractor. IRS is cracking down on this big time. Shovelers are employees. Do they use your equipment? Are they under your direction for when and how to do the job? Do they carry their own workers comp? Their own insurance? Is your CPA gonna pay all your fines and back taxes ( and it will be substantial) when you get audited? Don't believe me? I wouldn't either this is a public forum after all. I would suggest you contact the IRS or an employment Attorney for the real answer. I did.

    Shovel labor is a nightmare and it will only continue to get worse, work ethic is harder and harder to find. Whenever possible we try to avoid contracts with shoveling. We do however need 25 guys every time it snows (down from 40 last year). I pay a premium $18-20/hr. Give them coats, hats, always say thanks, if I (or a manager) am on site and a crew is shoveling I get out of my truck and help them for a while, buy the occasional lunch, try to have efficient equipment to make the job easier. The fact is this will continue to be the biggest challenge facing snow removal contractors.
  11. fireball

    fireball PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 545

    yep a 8 inch heavy wet snow with a icy bottom and crusty top will discourage the best people out there. I am not too sure that paying more, or more frequent food breaks improves the situation much. I think it hinges on keeping a 4 hour schedule and having a senior staff that has worked through bad times before. A bottom line guy when he encounters a really hard snow looks at it that this shoveling might last days and no matter how much money you are paying him it isn't enough for his aching back. Whereas if they know they will only be there for a set period of time, they will work their way through it. The really good ones will then volunteer to work extra if needed. We based it upon it takes one man can shovel x amount snow in 4 hours and they get say 100.00 for doing it based on average snowfall. If they work fast and it is a easy storm, they get the same 100.00 but they spent 2 hours doing it, thus equating to 50/hr. If it is wet, or there are breakdowns and it takes them longer, they will be paid their base rate per hour, but they have to finish their assigned route/tasks. Bottom line, they can't lose but they can make a lot of money quick. You will find that it is easy to recruit people for this because a lot of factory workers will sign up for a four hour shift before or after a shift but won't do it if you are non commitable on how long they are going to work. Church groups seem to always have someone looking for a short time job.

    Try using a good brush on that JD. That eliminates a lot of shoveling but its tough getting through small walkways between buildings
  12. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    We somehow seem to have good luck with sidewalk guys. We currently run 6 sidewalk crews. Each crew is equipped with a Cube van with custom ramps to drive an ATV or snowblower up (no lifting) they all have an ATV with plow, 2 single Stage snowblowers and a bigger Ariens for big snows. They also have several shovels of varying size. They have plastic 50 gallon drums cut in half that are filled with salt. They will have enough to make the rounds through their jobs 2x. When they are done with their route they are responsible for stopping and refueling the van, and restocking their salt bins so they are ready for the next event. The van is always kept running through the shift for heat and to minimize starting issues. The crews each have their "own" jobs but also know other jobs just in case. We do a site visit with the crew leader and one crew member prior to the first snow. We normally run crews of 2-3 but will add a guy on a big event. We offer a good hourly wage and a $2 bonus for each hour worked at the end of the season if they show up when called.

    Our system seems to work as guys keep coming back year to year and are getting the jobs done on or better than budget.
  13. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,594

  14. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    3 of the crew leaders are white guys that work for us year round. The majority of the rest are Hispanics that do concrete the rest of the year. All have e-verified ss#'s.
  15. JohnRoscoe

    JohnRoscoe Senior Member
    Messages: 209

    This seems like a good idea. I've wondered about a bonus at the end of a shift, but a season long incentive spelled out upfront seems better.
  16. shawn_

    shawn_ Member
    Messages: 71

    I shoveled what motivated me to do my best and always
    Come back was being paid in cash at the end of the storm or within a day after the storm....
  17. CHPL

    CHPL Member
    Messages: 82

    The investment in an ATV with a plow would make for more efficient work. You can clear the walks clean right up the the curb edges. Plow small irregular areas.
    Bottom line more work done with less employee labor.
  18. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,257

    I will never purchase another quad for sidewalks. Between my JD 1025R and my ZPlow, quads are one of the most inefficient sidewalk clearing machines out there.
  19. John_DeereGreen

    John_DeereGreen 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,920

    Mark did you put a cab on your 1025?
  20. JohnRoscoe

    JohnRoscoe Senior Member
    Messages: 209

    Equipment isn't our problem, although I agree it's important to start with the best you can in order to make the job as efficient as it can be for the people doing the work. We've got exactly the equipment that is best for our walks, after years of working on the right mix. Whether I'm in a truck, snowblower, or shovel, I never think, "I wish this equipment was better suited to the job." I've honestly not heard any of the people who help us complain about the equipment, either.

    What we do need, though, is to get people more interested in using that equipment!